A “delusional advisor” can have various meanings, but to me, it means an advisor who is unwilling to adapt to the evolving spectrum of the practice — individuals living in an illusion that the financial services industry is the same today as it was when they first started.

Our industry was stuck in a time warp from the time I entered it in 1983 (and definitely in the decades before that while my father was on the Street) until around 1996 or so. To stand out in today’s dynamic and competitive landscape, it’s important for advisors to re-evaluate their business functionalities and identify resources that can streamline their growth. Only in recent years have advisors looked to tap into the latest technology and resources to make their businesses more efficient and productive.

Based on my observation of the industry, below is a list of the most important resources, along with strategies that can help advisors beat the competition.

Making the Best Use of Technology

While we understand that technology does make our lives easier, many advisors I have come across simply don’t invest in setting up an infrastructure or process that could streamline their operations. Even in this day and age, I have seen many advisors use spreadsheets and notepads to inefficiently fumble through a task that a software program can do in seconds. Clients today have realized how technology enhances their experiences in other service industries and expect the same, or better, provisions from their advisors.

How: You need not become an expert in using technology, just in delivering the final product to your clients. For example, if you want to attract more tech-savvy clients, consider providing them with an app, or at the very least, an online client portal. All clients, not just millennials, want financial information at their fingertips — 68% of smartphone users have a financial app on their phones.

To get started, you may not even need to buy new technology. Instead, focus on better using the technology you have. For example, one of the most popular platforms is the CRM. Comb through your CRM and analyze the data like you would a portfolio or investment product — are there patterns and trends among your client base; are your clients all women; do they belong to a niche? The overall idea here is for you to share a more strategic and focused insight with your clients and to analyze your specialization with more depth — which brings me to my next section.

Adorning a Specialization

Most advisory firms spend only one to two percent of their revenue on marketing — reasons for this small allocation are mostly low budget, unwanted hassle and limited resources. The most efficient and cost-effective solution to resolve these issues and attract the most relevant clients who can scale an advisor’s business is niche marketing. Most successful advisors I have come across have a particular client profile they want to target and know this profile inside and out. According to the latest CEG report, more than 70% of advisors focus on niche clients. Prospects know immediately that they are meeting with an advisor with expertise relevant to their situation — which makes the close and the subsequent engagement much stronger.

How: If you already have a specialization, make sure that all of your marketing efforts highlight your expertise. If you don’t already have one, sift through your entire client base and follow the steps below:

  1. Profile your favorite clients to work with.
  2. Identify all clients with similar backgrounds and professions.

These two exercises are a great way to start identifying the expertise you will need to develop to take your business to the next level. However, if you find that your clients come from a particular walk of life, or share common careers, perhaps some of your professional development should be more targeted.

Learning New Skills

According to a Cerulli report, the number of certified financial planners has grown by 47% to an all-time high of more than 81,000 Americans. The CFP credential is a great way to communicate and validate to your clients that you are a competent and established financial professional. However, given the evolution of the industry, a CFP designation is not enough for an advisor to prove their worth. You should always keep learning and conducting due diligence, so when clients ask what you do in addition to investing (or monitoring) their money, continuing education is one of your answers — an answer which never gets old or redundant.

How: Considering a professional designation is important, but maintaining your credential and going after only the highest scores is what makes you stand out. The industry today is brimming with engaging and informative events and conferences — attending these, in my view, is the most convenient and efficient way to enhance your knowledge about the industry trends, key strategies and upcoming/ongoing developments.

The competition booming in the industry is often perceived as a threat to advisors — however, it can actually be a great opportunity for them to learn new skills and scale their businesses accordingly. The resources mentioned above can serve as a perfect motivation for an advisor to disregard the “delusions” associated with the profession, and to continue practicing trending strategies to maximize their value proposition.


Patrick A. Sweeny, principal, is a founding partner of Symmetry Partners. Prior to co-founding Symmetry Partners in 1994, Sweeny spent a number of years on Wall Street with Weeden & Co. and Dean Witter Reynolds in institutional trading and sales in both the equity and fixed income markets. Additionally, he was a member of the Commodities Exchange as a floor trader with Paine Webber. Sweeny is a recognized speaker on asset class investing and transforming advisor businesses into more efficient models. He speaks at industry conferences and is a guest lecturer at the university level. He received his B.A. in economics from Fairfield University.